The women’s singles final at the US Open, this Saturday (11), will crown the 14th unprecedented champion of a Grand Slam tournament since 2015.
If the presence of new up-and-coming tennis players has been the hallmark of the circuit’s main events in recent years, the decision between Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu raises the level of surprise to unprecedented levels.
The duel between Canadian Fernandez, 19, and British Raducanu, 18, will take place at 17:00, with ESPN, SporTV 3 and the Star+ streaming channel.
The two young women are from 2002 and, therefore, had not yet been born on the tragic September 11, 2001, the date that turns 20 this Saturday with particular commotion in New York, stage of the US Open.
Another coincidence between them is that both were born in Canada, into families marked by immigration trajectories.
Leylah’s father, and also one of her coaches, is Jorge Fernandez, an Ecuadorian who moved to North America at the age of 4 and played football professionally. Your mother is descended from Filipinos. Born in Montreal, the athlete now trains in Florida.
Two months younger, Raducanu was born in Toronto to a Romanian father and a Chinese mother who work in the financial sector. When she was two years old, the family settled in England.
In the last duel between two players under the age of 20 in the US Open decision, in 1999, Serena Williams and Martina Hingis were already household names. The American, who at the time won the first of her 23 slam titles, entered the tournament as the seventh seed, while the Swiss was at the top of the ranking.
This time, no one could say that Fernandez, 73rd place before the tournament, and Raducanu, 150th, would be together just one win from their first slam title.
The Canadian, with a professional elite trophy under her belt, is participating for the seventh time in her career in one of the four biggest tournaments. In 2019, she was a youth champion at Roland Garros and runner-up at the Australian Open.
To reach this stage, Leylah had to overcome mistrust and obstacles. One of them was the distance from her mother, who in the tennis player’s early teens moved to California for better working conditions and to support her daughter’s sporting plans. From 10 to 13 years old, they barely lived together.
“A lot of people doubted me, my family and my dreams. They kept saying I wouldn’t be a professional tennis player,” Fernandez declared after her victory in the semifinals. “I remember a teacher who told me to stop playing tennis, because I would never make it, and just focus on school.”
For different reasons, the British could also today be far from the main stages of the sport. “I never really realized I was going to pursue a tennis career until about two years ago. I always have my education as a backup. I was taking it alongside my sneakers. I had options, and I still do. But obviously I’m 100% in tennis now,” he also stated after winning in the semis.
Two months ago, Raducanu was invited to the main draw at Wimbledon and advanced to the round of 16. The then number 338 in the world faced Australian Ajla Tomljanovic and left the match with respiratory problems when losing 6/4, 3/0.
The surprising campaign has made her jump many positions in the rankings, but not enough to directly enter the main draw of the US Open.
His winning streak without losing sets in New York began in the qualifying phase, in which he needed to win three games, and extended to six more duels towards the final, the last two against Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, 11th seed, and the Greek Maria Sakkari, 17th.
It’s the first time that a tennis player out of quali competes in a Grand Slam final, a feat that has never happened in the men’s bracket until today.
Fernandez had a rougher route, but showed strength in four matches of three sets. He knocked down, in sequence, two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka (3rd seed), champion Angelique Kerber (16th), Elina Svitolina (5th) and Aryna Sabalenka (2nd).
“I think I’ve been doing amazing things. One word that really sticks with me is ‘magic’ because not only is my sequel really good, but also the way I’m playing. I’m just having fun, trying to produce something for the audience to enjoy. I’m happy that everything I’m doing on the court, the fans are loving it, and so am I. We’ll say it’s magical,” defined the Canadian.
In an attempt to describe what he has done so far, Raducanu is also amazed. “A surprise. Yes, honestly, I can’t believe it. A shock. Crazy. All of that.”